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Contamination

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Cover Art made by Fizzyxox

 

 

 

 

It’s raining heavily outside. You would think that would have stopped them. But no, it just slows them down and makes a human’s scent weaker. Levi can hear rain outside, heavy droplets of water smacking over the ceiling, no sign of them anywhere so far. Considering the noise his friend is making as she paces around the room, he knows they will be here any time soon.

Levi slides against the wall; he glances at the corridor through the ajar door. He tightens his grip on his revolver, body alert to any danger. Pointing onwards, Levi averts his gaze to his companion who is searching through the desks in the room. Dust flying everywhere, filling his nostrils and making his eyes itch.

“Hey, Mikasa remind me again what are we here for? Because patiently waiting for our stinking friends to come eat us wasn’t on my to-do-list this morning.” He whispers, drops of sweat clinging to his skin, trailing down his forehead. Despite the rain and the fucked up weather, it’s still so hot and clammy. Levi hates it, it’s suffocating. The raven-haired girl glances at him quickly through the paper in her hands then continues her search.

“We’re here for Hange” Comes her reply, in the same hushed tone. She flips through the contents of the drawer quickly, throwing everything out on the floor. The room, like the rest of the building, like the rest of the world, was wrecked. Destroyed and rummaged by generations of survivors, looking for anything to keep them alive after the War of the Planet.

“She needs paper and ink, you know how she gets when she can’t write her researches, she becomes-”

“Crazy.” Levi smiles at the thought of his friend. He has never met someone so enthusiastic and passionate about science. He has seen her crazily fidgeting around every time she runs out of things to write on. Right now, him and Mikasa are on a mission to get her the supplies she needs. No one wants a crazy Hange on his back.

“She just has to listen to me and use the old game console Armin tinkered to save his work and data.”

Mikasa rolls her eyes at him, As if the possibility never crossed their minds.

“And risk losing everything when this machine stops working? Do you want her to kill everyone?”

She crosses the room in rushed steps emptying, whatever is left, from the shelves around the walls.

Levi chuckles at her, watching the corridor and the stairs, their exit from the building.

“Hange will never use these things. Even if she lived… before all this shit started, I think she would type on her old—”

Mikasa mimicked aggressively the action of typing on keys with a slight rattle. Levi looks at her before turning his attention to the exit, body tense and ready to go into action.

Levi has always been tense and alert. Because he was born in a world populated by War, death and despair. Fighting, surviving every day was the only way. He is only twenty-one and survival is all he knew.

“A typewriter, I think. Kenny had one. It was lost during an attack ten years ago.” Levi replies as he glances back and forth at his friend and the hallway.

“Yeah, that.”

“Man! The things you do and the lengths you’ll go to get in her pants!” Levi’s smirk grew as he receives an annoyed glare and a book, which he barely manages to dodge, in his face.

“You’ve figured everything out. That is exactly why I’m risking my life for her.”

Levi shakes his head lightly with an amused and affectionate smile adorning his face. He can joke about it with Mikasa all he wants but they both know that she is deeply madly in love with Hange. She is far from being with her just for sex.

“I found something!” Mikasa exclaims after a few minutes of searching.

She puts her precious findings in her bag smiling widely at her achievement.

“Finally! we can fucking go home now.” Her smile fades when she turns to Levi who tensed abruptly, shushing her.

A noise. From the ground floor.

“Guess not, we have visitors.”

Instinctively, he checks that the two daggers crossed between his shoulder blades were still in their scabbards on his back. Years of experience, running and tracking had given him a kind of sixth sense. What would have seemed innocuous to one of these from the Walls sounded in his ears like a promise of upcoming death.

"We’re moving." he motions for her to get closer. "we’re moving! Now!”

Mikasa throws the strap on her shoulder and seizes the Beretta M11 , her favorite gun, which she had flung from her belt.

These weapons save their lives every day. A few years ago, their clan had discovered under a ton of branches what appeared to be an old military base. How had they discovered what no one, in several decades, had uncovered?

By a stubborn, kid who had decided to go on an exploration. A kid who had almost been shredded to pieces by unwelcoming zombies and who had found refuge in what he thought were the sewers. Sewers that had turned out to be actually the tunnels of a former unused base, a secret base. Refugee in the basement, he had discovered enough weapons and ammunition to supply them for years. A base that eventually became their home. Their community now lives there.

That kid, the little brat who never listens is now the grown up hunter who is keeping the base safe. Levi.

Levi clenches his jaw as he catches a glimpse of the stairs. He motions to Mikasa before gently closing the door and retreating to the windows.

Rule # 1 in times of apocalypse involving zombies or any other creatures: always provide an emergency exit. Preferably three or four.

Levi opens the window careful to not make a sound. He retreats away for Mikasa, who stepped over the ledge and disappeared outside. The echoing steps inch closer to the door and just as Levi steps over the ledge of the window ready to jump, the door burst open.

Zombies were filthy, that is the least he could say. Livid skin smeared with dirt, mud and dust. Blood too. On their skin, their torn clothes, their chins. Their hair greasy and tangled with various debris. The most frightening remains their eyes. Scarce, almost wholly white, the original color of their irises was barely visible. Hange said that their humanity fades as their eye color changes.

Although Levi was accustomed to this vision, he always prefers not to come across it. He slips outside of the room and carefully walks on the ledge that ran along the front of the building and which they had noticed upon arriving. He slowly and carefully slides against the damp wall following it to the second floor, several meters from the ground. He slips to the right. No safety harness of course. He scrambles to the corner of the building in Mikasa’s footsteps before grabbing the gutter there. He slides to the ground where she’s waiting for him, weapon in hand.

They begin to walk in the gate’s direction at a normal pace.

Rule # 2: Do not run, except in an emergency, to not attract attention if zombies didn’t know where you were.

The contaminated came out of the gate, cutting off the road. Their eyes are glued to them. Their head raised, nostrils dilated, meant only one thing: they had tracked their sent. Levi curses his body for sweating.

Behind them, noise is heard again.

Rule # 3: Do not let yourself be surrounded. This was precisely the emergency in Rule #2.

Levi and Mikasa run towards the building’s gates. Yes, they were running straight up a two-meter high fence without any apparent exit door in the vicinity. They jump to the fence and begin to climb. Within a few seconds, they are at the top. A few moments later, they are on the other side. Mikasa yelps as she slips falling head first on the mud. Levi gives an ironic military salute to the corpses who are watching them with their empty eyes on the other side before they start running again. They jump into the car, which they parked few meters away.

One of their routines.

“I think Kenny will spare us this time,” Levi says, out of breath as he settles into the passenger seat. “We’re not dead, we haven’t fired a bullet, we haven’t destroyed the car and we brought back some paper to save Hange from madness.”

“We didn’t tell him though. We were supposed to go hunting remember?” Mikasa reminds him, cringing as she speeds up the car.

They glance at each other for a second, grimacing at the thought of the consequences of their actions.

“We're so dead.” She mutters, glancing back at the road in front of her.

They were supposed to go hunting today. Like every day. Instead, Levi had stolen the keys of the community leader, Kenny, to go for a "short ride" using the car. Not warning anyone.

Kenny is not going to be happy.

Levi gets out of the vehicle to open the hangar door, once they arrived. One of the cars, the smallest, is always outside, in this shed just above the base. The other, the noisier Range Rover, is kept inside. Mikasa parks the electric car in a flash and picks up the keys as Levi closes the doors quickly.

She walks over to a corner of the hangar and lifts the sewer plate there. She gestures for Levi to go before her. She may be a fighter but facing Kenny isn’t like facing zombies. Kenny is scary.

Levi rolls his eyes at her and puts his weapon in his holster, drops his backpack over his shoulders, and descends the ladder first, sinking into darkness. He goes down several meters before reaching the ground and catches the torch in the hole to the right of the ladder. A lamp recharged with solar energy, like everything that produced light here. The sun is their only friend.

She shuts the sewer, plunging the underground into darkness, and Levi lights the lamp as his friend goes down. This part of the base is not lit continuously. Only the corridors connecting the HQ to the rooms and the infirmary are illuminated most of the time. Levi waits for her to join him before taking the corridor to his right. They walk for several minutes talking and joking before arriving in a huge room.

Levi called this place the HQ when he was a kid and the appellation had ended up being adopted by the rest of the refugees. It is the biggest room in the base, where the soldiers were storing the cars before. It had to make the size of a football stadium. Everything had been laid out for years to make it the living room of the refugees. In this room, people could meet, discuss, debate, read. It is the only room big enough to hold everyone and it is also the only place where there is light almost constantly, Kenny lets the electricity run there all the time except in the later hours when everyone is asleep.

They’re around thirty to forty people in the base and they don’t all fit in a room. Here they all have space, they are at ease. They had installed everything so they can get comfortable, useful and likely to make their lives more enjoyable and easier. Sofas everywhere, old carpets on the floor, tables and chairs, rows of libraries at the back of the room, trinkets, photos, paintings on the shelves along the walls. In the center, an old record player on a chest of drawers filled with vinyl records.

On the right, at the corner, the "nursery" as Mama calls it. Where they have set up a space with all the toys they had been able to find in the course of time, so that the children could grow up playing, too, despite the horror of the world they live in. It was Levi who brought back as many toys as possible. He did not have many when he grew up and he wanted the kids to have a better up bringing than he had.

The outside world was not safe for humans. Had been so for the past decades. This place is, though. It is the only place in the world that they could call their home. It had been a little more than ten years that they were living here and it was the first time they had stayed in the same place for so long. Zombies couldn’t come down here.

However, they are missing the sun. Certainly, one should not be claustrophobic to be able to live underground. True, they are a little too pale and they lack fresh air. Nevertheless, they are safe.

In this world, being safe is the most important thing.

“Levi!” A male voice shouts from the entrance to the corridor on their left.

Levi grimaces cursing under his breath. He almost laughs at the way Mikasa trips on her own feet stumbling forward with a “Shoot! It’s Kenny.”

He really didn’t want to deal with him right now. Kenny's tone shows that he is not happy and that they are going to be punished. Mikasa near him, looks as if she had swallowed something bitter. Even Mikasa, who was scared of almost nothing, backs away from Kenny’s glare. Everyone here dreads Kenny's anger.

Kenny steps out of the corridor. His tall frame emerging from the entrance, heavy footsteps echoing around the empty corridors. His brown eyes are piercing and deep, glaring at Levi as he approaches. Kenny has always been their leader in some way. It was he, who commands here. Even though he is only in his late forties and not the oldest in the base.

Humans need a leader, even more so under these circumstances. Someone who gives them hope, someone who tells them what to do, someone who takes initiative, someone who defends them, someone who maintains order. Kenny is that someone. He is as much their leader as the one who takes care of them all and protects them. His charisma, his qualities as a soldier as well as his personality, his strategic spirit and his undeniable authority do not leave doubts to put him in that position. It was he, who had picked them up one by one, who had founded their community, who had taught them to survive in this world where one could not live.

He is also the only one who had any bit of authority over Levi here. Because it was he who had raised him.

"You two have exactly thirty seconds to tell me where you’ve been and why you’ve changed your mission without warning anyone.”

Kenny's voice is cold and harsh. He racks a hand through his gray hair, cut very short, like old soldiers. Levi stiffens shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot.

“Papers. For Hange.” Mikasa pulls her stuff out of her backpack.

“What gives you the right to go away alone with one of the vehicles without asking or warning anyone?”

Levi sighs and rolls his eyes. Kenny may be their leader but he is also very dramatic when it comes to Levi. He acts as if Levi is a toddler who needs guidance. Kenny's icy glare falls on him.

“We took all the usual precautions, we used Lavender to conceal our sent, we took the car without damaging it, we were in a disused area and we had no problems there. We have paper and Hange is not gonna go crazy.” Levi points out, eyelashes batting over his grey eyes.

Kenny purses his lips.

“The next time you do an excursion of this type without warning anyone, you are deprived of going out for a month.”

Levi’s skin prickles at the thought of that. To some it’s a blessing, not having to face zombies and death outside. To him it wasn’t. Levi treasured his position as a hunter; it allowed him to be outside almost every day. The thought of being deprived of that made him uneasy. He can’t imagine living his life trapped underground, where the sun doesn’t shine.

Kenny looks at them back and forth before sighing, gripping the bridge of his, somewhat, twisted nose that had already been broken several times.

“Nevertheless you did a good job. Hange went around the rooms to grab the slightest piece of paper she can find and I think she's locked up in the infirmary right now.”

Mikasa shakes her head with a smile, imagining her girlfriend’s condition at that moment.

“Go on, hurry up and bring her oxygen.” Kenny smiles, amused, shifting to the side to let them pass. “Levi come see me afterwards.” He says glancing briefly at Levi before leaving.

Levi hears the reproach in his tone and he sighs, mentally preparing himself for the lecture to come. At least they went unpunished.

Mikasa and Levi set off for the other end of the base. People do not run here, not in those undergrounds. It is a rule that Kenny had established at their installation here. People used to run too much when they were outside. Running is equated with emergency in this world. they run for survival. If anyone were to be seen running around the base, everyone would imagine they were being invaded. So they don’t run.

The infirmary is located at the end of a long corridor, in the part of the base reserved for the rooms. It is distinguished from the others by its red door while the rest of the doors are black. Levi doesn’t like this door to be red. To him, red is blood and the infirmary was already sufficiently associated with it.

Mikasa turns the handle and enters the room without announcing herself. Hange is sitting at her desk, her glasses on her nose, examining reports of scientific tests she had written. She looks up at the intrusion and her face lit up.

Levi stands by the door as Mikasa walks over to her girlfriend and wraps her arms around Hange’s neck, clinging to her back. Hange leans against her with a sigh of relief. Levi understands that. In this world, there is no certainty of seeing those we love when we leave them, if only briefly. When we get to have a person in our lives, our soulmate, the fear that something happens to them eats you up from the inside and the relief to find it was just your imagination is just so euphoric you’d cry.

Mikasa would panic at the thought of losing Hange one day. Levi knows. She had nightmares that woke her up at night, panting, covered in cold sweat, and Hange had to reassure her by kissing her gently and assuring her that she was still there and that nothing was going to happen to her.

Mikasa had arrived here six years ago. She was eighteen at the time. Before, she lived in a colony of survivors further north of Shiganshina District. A very strict colony, where they formed fighters and warriors. Mikasa had grown up surrounded by weapons and violence. She had learned how to use a gun before she knew how to tie her shoelaces. Priorities were different there. The chiefs preferred to teach them how to handle a sword rather than to teach them to read and write. They preferred to instill in them warrior values rather than pity and compassion. Mikasa was cold. Mikasa was a fighter. Mikasa had been forged by these ideas of death and destruction, by the idea that the only things worth fighting for were survival and vengeance.

Her family had been killed, before her eyes. The zombies had taken them by surprise. Eventually a lot of human activity in one place is bound to uncover them. Mikasa's family lived on the edge of the camp. Her brother and her mother had been killed first. Her father had died a long time ago. And Mikasa was there on her own witnessing it all. Levi still remembers the scene vividly; he was the one who found her.

Bitten by zombies and bleeding on the floor, Mikasa watched her family die. She stood frozen in place, her eyes wide as she held her breath. She couldn’t believe what she saw in front of her. There’s blood, so much blood. On her clothes, on the walls, on the floor, on her face. Blood of her parents, blood of her brother. And blood of that creature. She was trained for this; she has been working hard at camp training every day.

This is not new to her and yet she couldn’t move or think. She was numbly staring at the corpses around her. Corpses that were her family just a few minutes ago. The room smelled of blood. Her family’s blood pooling down the floor. Her hands shook around her knees as she hugged them to her chest. She’s a coward, she was supposed to protect them, her brother was too young to know anything, her mother was powerless against them. She was the only hope they had to survive. Her father had trusted her with them and yet she let them die, on her watch.

She turned around from the bloody mess, that the corpses formed, by the growl of zombies inching towards her. She could see her blade glinting a few inches away, if she could snatch it she would be safe, she would kill them all and get out unharmed. After all she was one of the Elites. But she couldn’t get herself to do it. What’s the point of even trying when there’s nothing left for you to fight.  It was weird how she could remain this calm when death was literally a few seconds away from her. Mikasa closes her eyes as a zombie begins to grab for her and she wonders how painful would it be to be bitten by them, teared limb from limb and left to bleed to death or turn into one of them. She held her breath tightening her hold around her knees. It’ll be over in a few seconds.  

It’s then that she heard it, the swoosh of air and the crushing of skull. And then a thud of something collapsing at her feet. She slowly opened her eyes to the sight of a headless zombie by her legs, blood oozing from its head. Her eyes widened in shock as she looked up just in time to see her savior slashing another zombie’s head with his daggers, his movements agile and precise.

“Filthy monsters!” He grunted as he drove his dagger deep into the eyes of a third zombie approaching, blood splattering on his face. He was back to Mikasa, she couldn’t see his face. She sat frozen in place then her eyes traveled back to her mother’s corpse on the corner of the room. Her black eyes rolled to the back, mouth slacked open and her once black hair was all sticky with blood as is her face and the rest of her body.

If she had moved faster, if she had killed them, if she had protected her family like she was supposed to, if she had been brave enough, they’d be alive right now. Her wide eyes watered, nails digging into her palms, cutting through her flesh. She doesn’t deserve to live after letting them down. She doesn’t deserve a second chance when they didn’t. She doesn’t deserve to be saved like they didn’t. Her tears fell down her cheeks and soon enough sobs wracked her body. There was screaming, so much screaming and her throat hurt. It stung and she felt it close up until he realized that the she was actually the one screaming. 

Why was this happening to her? It wasn’t supposed to go this way. They were supposed to secure their belonging and join another troop. Always move in clans and secure somewhere to live and something to eat. Being in a group provides higher rate for survival.

The guy’s movement stilled, he stared at his shaking hands for a few seconds than took a deep breath to calm himself. He wiped the blood on his face with his sleeve and then trotted towards the crying girl, kneeling slowly next to her shaking form as she coughed.

He glanced around them before looking at her “are you hurt ?” he asked quietly not wanting to scare her. She looked his age, give or take few years older. The latter looked up at him, her eyes wide and terrified, face red and cheeks wet with flowing tears.

“I’m not going to hurt you.” He added, watching as she flinched away from his proximity “here” he kicked his sword away and raised his hands carefully to not startle her. “I’m Levi.”

Mikasa starred at him for a while and then with a trembling voice she asked, “Are they dead?”

For a second Levi thought she was talking about the zombies but then she added “my family, are they really dead?” her trembling fingers covered her mouth as she heaved, sobbing. “I-It’s all my F-Fault.”

“I’m sorry” Levi looked away from the crying girl as he felt his heart squeeze inside his chest. He cringed at his own words. He has heard them many times and he knows that it means absolutely nothing. What are we sorry for? Death? Not getting another chance? Well that is how life is. And being sorry is just a waste of time in a world like this. Sorry wouldn’t change the fact that someone died, or bring them back, nor will it help someone grief. We’re just so used to being sorry every time.

“It’s going to be okay,” Levi said as he took the shaking girl in his arms, being far too familiar with the pain of loosing your loved ones.

It’ was minutes later when she is finally calm and Kenny has arrived with his teammates looking worried and angry.

Levi grimaced at the look on Kenny’s face. What he didn’t expect was the hug Kenny gave him as soon as he laid eyes on him. “Oh! thank god” he had whispered voice thick with worry.

“I told you not to go on your own like that!” he held him at arm’s length as he screamed at him, angry. “Do you understand what you’ve done?”

“I- I tried to save them! I wasn’t fast enough to help them all…” Levi frowned at him. He couldn’t just hear them cry for help and not do anything. It’s what he had hoped for when he was in that situation. For someone to save him. For someone to hear his pleas and take him to safety.

“Levi! This is not training! You could’ve been hurt or worse! Dead!  You should’ve waited for us!”

Kenny argued as the others secured the area around them quietly, not wanting to interfere. Levi has always been known for his impulsiveness and never abiding by the rules. This is not the first time he and Kenny has this argument nor will it be the last. Kenny raised Levi like his own son. He knows he gets hard on him sometimes, scolding and screaming, but Levi is his son and he can’t wrap his head around the fact that something will ever happen to him. Levi on the other hand hasn’t learned the lesson yet and Kenny is terrified that one day, it will be too late. He has already lost people and Levi is all he has left.

“She would’ve died if I waited for you it would be too late! What was I supposed to do? Watch her die?” Levi stubbornly crossed his arms over his chest.

“Even if that’s true you were just plain lucky! What would you do if you got bitten? Have you thought about that? What would I do then? Huh?” Kenny took a deep breath to calm his racing heart. “I’m not mad because you tried to save someone I’m mad because you never think! You just risk your life and play heroes on me!”

Levi huffed, looking away in annoyance. His nostrils flared and his cheeks reddened in anger as he grumbled to himself.

Mikasa stared at the ground quietly as she they argued. Kenny walked towards her inspecting her for injuries, Levi on his tracks. “Are you hurt anywhere?” Kenny asks kneeling in front of her. Mikasa shook her head still starring at her smudged hands, dirt and blood on her clothes.

“I’m Kenny. What’s your name?” He asked resting his hand on her shoulder. She looked young. Kenny felt bad for her. Losing your loved ones in front of you isn’t easy. The guilt of not being enough to save them would forever hunt you.

“Mikasa” She murmured. She looked around at what she had once called her home and her eyes watered again. She no longer can stay here. Not with images of her family being murdered in every corner of these walls, voices screaming at her: you deserves this, it’s your fault, you weren’t enough, coward. It was just too much and she needed to get away.

Kenny was speaking to her but she couldn’t hear him through the racing thoughts in her head. Voices so loud that she wonders if they could hear them. She took a deep breath and closed her eyes for a few seconds. Then she stood up ignoring whoever called her name.

“Where are you going?” Levi’s hand on her arm stopped her, his eyes searching hers. She didn’t look at him.

“It’s cold I don’t want to stay here.” She numbly said, eyes cold and empty. She lightly rubbed her hands together, Levi’s warm hands no longer on her skin. “I have to look for another place before it gets dark.”

Levi looked at her for a few seconds before taking away his coat and putting it over her shoulders. Kenny watched them interact warmly, a small smile tugging at his lips. He’s proud of the way Levi turned out to be in such a cruel world. Selfless and always ready to help.

Kenny had always warned him from telling anyone about their home, humans are greedy and in times like this, they would go so far to secure themselves. He is well familiar with that. However, he couldn’t bring himself to let Mikasa leave. She was already alone and he knows that she can’t get somewhere safe before sunset. With years of experience, Kenny learned how to read people, and he can tell that Mikasa doesn’t have bad intentions, she didn’t ask about where they came from.

Mikasa pulled at the coat covering her tighter enjoying the warmth of the cloth.  A luxury she will no longer be able to afford. She wonders how longer she will be able to stay alive, now that she has to fend for herself.

Her eyes fill with tears again at the thought of having to be alone. She looked up through the blur of her tears thanking Levi when Kenny spoke “you can come with us. We can have an extra place for you.”

Mikasa stood there staring at him as the other men moved around them searching the place.

Levi tugged at her cold hands to get her attention “what are you waiting for?” he asked dragging her with them, “Come on.” He adds huffing at an unresponsive Mikasa. Mikasa looks back at her family as Levi drags her. Will they feel alone now that she’s gone? Will they be cold when winter comes? Will they hate her for not being strong enough for them? She tugged at Levi’s hand and slipped away from his grasp. She walked over to her mother first, with shaking hands she cover her eyes shut. Then she proceeds by taking a cloth from the closet and dropping it over her dead body, tears streaming down her face.

“I’m so sorry! I don’t even have time to bury you.” She sobs quietly, dropping next to her brother. “I hope there’s something better out there for you. This isn’t a life worth living anyway, not for an angel like you.”

Levi’s eyes sting at her words and he looked away feeling guilty for intruding on intimate and private moments. He wanted to help her bury them, but he knows they couldn’t. He hated how unfair this world is. Not only do they lose their loved ones but sometimes they don’t even have a body to return or the possibility to bury them. They are forced to let them rot wherever they died or get eaten by other zombies.

He gave Mikasa a few more minutes with her family then he kneeled beside her. She can tell that it’s time to go. The others regrouped around them, their bags full with useful things they found, ready to leave. “I’m sorry, we have to go. It’s getting dark.” He said, gently rubbing at her back. She nodded wiping on her tear strained face and held his outstretched hand as he pulled her up.

Kenny watched his son fondly. Levi always acted cold and unimpressed but Kenny knows that under that façade, deep down, he has a good heart

“Let’s go then.” Kenny said as he collects Levi’s daggers from the ground.

Since that day, Mikasa knew she could trust Levi with her life. Levi had brought her back and made her his best friend. He had given her a home and a family. She had great difficulty in making friends in the base; some women envied or feared her, while some men didn’t like her for having such a strong role in their community. It doesn’t matter in what situation the world is: men rarely appreciate having their destiny handed to the hands of a woman stronger than them. She and Levi make a perfect team. Mikasa is strict, always calm and flexible. Levi was stubborn, let no one tell him what to do and has the tendency to be impulsive. Both were cynical, and had the same sense of sarcasm. Mikasa had taught Levi how to use a sword properly; Levi had taught her that life isn’t just death and zombies, He taught her how to live for something that isn’t vengeance and war. He gave her the choice. “You don’t have to fight anymore if you don’t want to.” He had said to her. He gave her the freedom to choose her position in this community.

Then Mikasa met Hange. And she finally understood. She had grasped that it was not only death and vengeance, indeed. There is love too.

“I have a surprise for you, babe.”

Mikasa straightens up. Slides her backpack from her shoulder and lays it on the desk in front of Hange. Hange looks up at her cautiously through the rim of her glasses, before opening the bag. Her gestures became more excited as she begins to take out the sheets and notebooks that Mikasa had found in the offices she and Levi just searched.

Oh my god! Papers, Notebooks!” Hange squeals in delight and turns around to crush her lips against Mikasa's. “Papers!” She says in disbelief.

"You're the best girlfriend I could ever have in this life or any other life," She whispers against Mikasa’s lips who giggles blushing. Hands caressing Hange's lower back, taking in her warmth. They’re here, they’re safe.

Levi fakes gagging noises. He is in every way touched by how Hange and Mikasa are fucking adorable together. However, he is definitely not into watching them make out on the desk. It’s not his thing.

“And that, is my cue to go before my pure and innocent eyes witness—”

Hange pulls away from the kiss and burst out laughing.

"You? Pure and innocent? There is no less pure and innocent than you in the whole base, Erwin can confirm that.”

Levi smirks at them. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”          

Hange jumps to hug him.

“Thank you, Levi.”

“I couldn’t leave you in distress without intervening. You were starting to be unbearable and Mikasa would have killed me for not doing something about it.” Levi sighs, dramatically. “I wonder what you’d do without me.”

Hange laughs and let go of Levi after she had said that they would see each other at lunch.

The problem is that Levi is starving and that lunch is not before an hour or two. However, he knows where to find food without having to go through the kitchen and its restrictions. He takes the opposite direction to the infirmary, returning to the HQ and stopping outside the door of a rather singular room.

Drawings and scraps are hanging on the door, such as "Do not enter without knocking", "If you come to steal my food, you can go get eaten by a zombie" or "My sleep is sacred, anyone who disturbs it exposes himself to a particularly painful death ". Ignoring these adorable warnings, as always, Levi knocks before entering without waiting for an answer.

“Damn it, Levi!” A shriek comes from the back of the room. “You scared me! How many times have I told you to knock before you get in?”

“How do you even know it’s me?”

Levi smiles before turning to his friend, standing in front of the bench that ran across the back wall, covered with all sorts of tinkers, wires, engine parts, plastics, rubber, basically a huge mess of equipment.

“One can tell from the way you knock, you’re abusing the door! Besides, you always burst in my room as if you own the fucking place. What if I had been with a charming girl?”

“You're a virgin, Armin, we both know that, and it's not likely to change in the immediate future, unless Sasha decides to give in to your ... I’m not sure whether staring creepily at her and giving her some of your food can be considered as  "advances".”

Armin wipes his forehead, smudging black traces against his creamy pale skin, his hands stained with engine grease and other substances. His silver blond hair was a mess, bristling in all directions; bangs framing his face and shielding his eyes. He turns around, intense blue eyes sparkling, playfully glaring at him. Levi often thinks that Armin's eyes are one of the few magnificent things that remained in this life. Full of hope and joy.  He is so adorable, all the time, especially when he blushes. Armin mutters a “whatever” and changes the subject ignoring Levi’s comments on his love life.

“I heard Kenny shouting earlier. What did you and Mikasa do this time?”

Levi flops down on Armin's bed, to his right. Armin is the only one to have a room of his own in the base. With his bench, his tools, his models and his projects, there would not have been enough room for a second person. If Armin had lived a few decades earlier, Levi is convinced he would have been one of those people who spent their time on computers, reading books and inventing stuff a... Nerd.

Armin would have been a Nerd. He spends his time tinkering with everything he finds, whether electronic, mechanical or simply everyday use. Levi has to admit that he is a genius. Without him, they probably would not have electricity here. He had the idea to use the solar panels that they had found in a neighboring factory and produce the electricity they lacked.

It was also him, who had thought to reconnect the wind turbines near the base to provide them with the remaining energy. He who allowed them to have useable water through his systems of filtering and recovery of rainwater. He restored all the things that could improve their lives, like the old record player in the HQ and even some consoles and computers for children. Armin was James Bond's Q in that base. Seventeen years old and already has an important role to everyone.

Levi grunts in annoyance as he heard Armin's question.

“As if I’m the only one here to anger him!”

“There’s no one else in this whole base who is as annoying as you are.”

“Whatever. We went out without permission. "

Noticing the unimpressed glance Armin had given him, Levi raises both hands to show his innocence.

“It was for Hange!”

A flash of understanding passes over Armin's face as he takes a cloth to wipe his hands.

“She came by earlier to find out if I could lend her from my paper supply. The thing is, I also need it for my work. We are the only two people who need this shit in this base.”

It is true. Armin took care of the whole physical part, tinkering, while Hange was in charge of the chemistry part. In addition to taking over from the community doctor, who died six months earlier on a field trip, she works on medication. Everything that could be of use to care for the residents is welcomed and Hange worked hard on it.

She is looking for a cure too. A cure for the virus that had decimated the human population and killed or transformed 90% of Paradise Island. They had no idea what is happening around the world. All means of connections were lost during the War of the Planets and there was nothing left to inform them of life outside of Paradise. Hange is sure there had to be a cure. It could not have been otherwise. Any disease should be able to be combated. For the time being, however, it did not seem that the "Death Virus that kills", as Levi called it when he was a kid, could be fought by something other than a shotgun and a brain explosion.

“Fortunately we’ve found enough stacks of paper for her, if not; I think she would have plucked out her hair.”

“And you couldn’t just ask Kenny for permission to go out rather than sneak out?” Armin raises his eyebrows in suspicion.

Levi glares at him slipping a loose strand from his black hair behind his ear.

“No need to be a smart ass, now!”

Armin scoffs. “Obviously, Levi can never abide by the rules. You're always doing what’s in your head, you're fucking crazy!” He shakes his head in mock-disappointment.

Levi laughs before lying flat on his stomach to search Armin's bedside table, who utters a cry of protest when he notices.

"What do you think you’re doing?" He gasps, jumping on him to snatch the cake he had in his hands. “It was Mama who cooked it for my exclusive privilege, so you get your dirty hands from there before I tear your fingers away with my teeth.”

“But I'm hungry! Armiiiin, please.” Levi’s attempt at puppy eyes didn’t seem to work on Armin who keeps tugging at his hands.

“Nope. Leave it alone shorty! I share my food with nobody, let alone with peasants who allow themselves to take over my bed shamelessly and enter my room without knocking at a time when I could possibly be masturbating!”

Levi bursts out laughing; his grasp on the cake loosens enough for Armin to snatch the cake from his hands. Armin is a ray of sunshine. Even if this bastard refuses to give him some of his food.

“It’s almost time to eat anyway so get your ass of my bed and be useful.”

While Levi was laughing, Eren was running.